Sunday, August 26, 2012

If You Like Trees, You Will LOVE Mallard Lake

Living in Yellowstone for the summer is living life on the edge. We probably won’t experience a violent explosion while we’re out there in the middle of the caldera. But then again, you never know. This is Yellowstone, after all – home to one of the world’s largest active volcanoes. 

IMG_2536Biscuit BasinAndMallard LakeResurgent Dome
Biscuit Basin with the Mallard Lake resurgent dome just beyond it

When magma rises but does not erupt onto the surface, the floor of the caldera can bulge upward into small hills called resurgent domes

Recently I wrote about one of these, the Sour Creek Dome, located north of Fishing Bridge. From a distance this seemingly harmless–looking hill appears to wear a toupee of trees. 

The other one in the Park is the Mallard Lake Dome, north of Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin. It isn’t much to write home about, either. Unless someone points it out, you would not even suspect that magma rises to as little as a mile beneath the surface of these hills. When we hear in the news that the Yellowstone caldera is inching its way skyward and may explode any day, it is usually one or both of these hills that is doing a magmatic boogie dance. 

IMG_3400Mallard CreekTrail
Mallard Creek trail

The Mallard Creek trail roller–coasters its way four and a half miles through endless stands of trees until finally coming to a lovely little lake surrounded by – you guessed it – more endless stands of trees. 

If it weren’t for some osprey nesting along the trail I think I would have fallen asleep in my boots.
IMG_3372Osprey Nest
Osprey nest along the Mallard Creek trail

Osprey in flight
Shouldn’t there be at least a few thermal features on a resurgent dome?  You would think so, but nooooo. All I saw was one tiny rivulet where a small community of colorful thermophilic bacteria hung their heat–loving hats.

Thermophiles - heat-loving organisms

Footbridges forlornly crossed dry, withered creek beds. 

Still, the lake was a lovely shimmering blue against the gray greenness of this late summer afternoon. 

IMG_3383Mallard Lake
Mallard Lake


Feet with a lake view

I honestly could have languished along the lake shore all day, mostly because I didn’t want to walk back into all those bleeping trees on that roller–coaster trail.

IMG_3399Mallard CreekTrail
Mallard Creek trail

The view to the west was pretty good, though – across the trees, of course. 

IMG_3381Midway GeyserBasinAnd GallatinRange
Midway Geyser Basin & the Gallatin Range
Lucky for us the dome does not seem to be doing much boogie–dancing at all these days.  It must be saving up its energy for The Big One!


  1. I like rocks, but there's nothing wrong with trees either. Looks like a nice hike.

  2. It was a nice hike, actually, with that lovely lake where we enjoyed a snack and a rest. Just too many trees!
    It was probably more the roller-coaster aspect of the trail that was fatiguing - up and down and up and down and up and down and... well, you get the picture.